How are we supposed to know what our true calling in life is? Especially when there is still so much to experience, knowledge to gain, and our dreams don’t seem possible. Picking something and saying ‘this is my thing’ seems a bit crazy.
I’ve always struggled with the word ‘career’, it’s not an inspirational word to me, it doesn’t make me feel excited. But while researching into self-awareness a colleague introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ikigai. To start with it just looked like a nice infographic, that centres on pulling different life elements together. Yet the more I looked into it the more I began to see that it’s actually quite an empowering concept that made me really think about what I want to do and why. After all, Ikigai translates as ‘your reason for being’ – it’s the thing/things that make you jump out of bed in the morning eager to start the day. Who wouldn’t want to think about how to get that?
Let’s look at how to use the concept of Ikigai so you can start identifying your own.
Everyone’s Ikigai is different. Some might find it through their work, others their family or hobbies. It isn’t about one thing usually but a combination of things that contribute towards a happy and fulfilling life. Most of us think our lives are okay but often feel that something is missing. Looking at your Ikigai can really help to show you how to make some positive changes to feel more fulfilled.
What you can be paid for
Straight off this quadrant brings us down to earth with a crash. It takes lots of dream jobs right off the table. Right? Not necessarily. In this model what you can be paid for can be as simple as having the means for basic living, it isn’t about accumulating wealth. It also pertains to other rewards, the satisfaction you get from certain activities. As long you have some means of supporting yourself financially and your activities offer you enrichment.
What you are good at
This kind of thing requires you to think broad, to think big, and to think back. Most of us would come up with a few lame things off the top of our heads, but that’s not the real, whole you. Often in life we take the things that we are good at for granted. We all have natural gifts that we don’t see because we’re too busy sweating it about the stuff we want to better at. So, step back and get some perspective here. What you’re good at isn’t just about tasks and activities, it’s about relationships, strengths and ability in all areas of your life.
- What do other people turn to you for? Why do you think that is?
- What’s easy for you?
- What were you good at as a kid?
- What can you just pick up and do even if you haven’t done it for a while?
What you love
This one can seem expansive to some and awkward for others. Essentially, it can be everything from people, interests, and activities to music, food and books. It could be about the way you prefer to communicate, or your feelings.
- If you have spare time how do you like to spend it?
- What in your life right now makes you happy? (Your course, job, family, hobby, project)
- What activities do you lose yourself in and forget about time and everything else?
- What would you like to do less of?
- What are your guilty pleasures? – there’s a reason why they make you feel good!
What the world needs
Wow, this one’s a biggie. Well, it might seem it on the face of it. If you’re passionate about creating an app, that say measures the authenticity of a person’s laugh, then like any serious entrepreneur you must identify, or develop, an audience for it. If you pour time and energy into something and nobody else cares about it (i.e. you can’t get money or recognition for it, and the world doesn’t need it) then despite all your hard work you won’t get a sense of purpose. The world needs things on many different scales, it needs genius researchers to cure disease, it needs inspirational teachers, its needs law and order. But it also needs kindness, and comedy, and cups of tea. Ask yourself these questions to start identifying what truly matters to you:
- What would you like to contribute towards changing?
- What do you want to be a part of?
- What are you always ranting about?
- Who do you want to help, and how do you want to help them?
Your Ikigai, your reason for being, will change throughout your life as different things become important to you and you have new experiences. According to Ken Mogi, author, neuroscientist, and broadcaster:
“Ikigai isn’t a grand target…it’s a spectrum of small things. The really big things might only happen once a decade, so life isn’t sustainable without small daily joys.”
Find ways to squeeze more joy into your every day. Give yourself time and space to do the things you love with focus. Take the time to get to know yourself and let your own voice become your strongest influence by living your Ikigai.